Author: Alan Decker
By Alan Decker
“Renovations” concept by Alan Decker and Anthony Butler
Lieutenant Craig Porter slipped into the main docking module of Waystation Village and immediately wished he’d chosen another route. Rather than being empty, as it usually was, the module had at least seven people in it. One of them, Waystation security chief, Lieutenant Sean Russell, was about the last person Porter wanted to see right then. Of course, Russell spotted him right away.
“Craig, come here a second,” Russell said, waving Porter over. Russell was standing with a couple of his security officers near the main airlock. Porter then realized why there were people down there; a transport was docking.
“It’s about time,” he heard Bradley Dillon’s voice say from a few feet away. The businessman and CEO of Dillon Enterprises was waiting impatiently for the transport along with his executive assistant, Gisele. Porter had asked her her full name once when he saw her eating in the make-shift food court module. Evidently, Gisele was it. He remembered the incident well. He’d gone over to say hello and introduce himself, she invited him to sit down, he asked the question, she flashed him one of the most beautiful, literally breath-taking smiles he’d ever seen, and then said, “Just Gisele.”
The conversation kind of went downhill from there. Porter just couldn’t think of anything else to say to her. Of course, he tended to have that problem around attractive women, except Commander Beck. Maybe it was because they’d been friends for so long. She was no longer a potential woman to reject him; she was just Lisa.
“What’re you doing all the way down here?” Russell asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Porter replied, dodging the question.
“We’ve got a potential security problem coming in on this transport. Guy by the name of Sesil. He caused some trouble a little while ago on Vulcan. Evidently, he and his followers weren’t too happy with the all logic, all the time way of life. They took a couple government officials hostage and tried to convert them to their way of thinking.”
“Sounds charming,” Porter said, starting to head toward the exit on the opposite side of the module.
“Hey. Stick around. I’m trying to do the whole show of force thing when he shows up. Let him know that just because he’s been released from the penal colony, we’re still watching him.”
“You’re bored, aren’t you?” Porter said.
The airlock then opened, allowing the few passengers on the transport to disembark. Porter spotted Sesil right away. At least he assumed it was Sesil. There weren’t that many smiling Vulcans in the universe. The effect was a bit disconcerting.
“You Sesil?” Russell said, stiffening his body as he switched into official Chief of Security mode. The white-robed Vulcan looked at Russell, Porter, and the two security officers that were with them
“I see my reputation precedes me,” Sesil said tranquilly. “We can discuss Starshine philosophy later, my children. I must rest now.”
“Not even close, buddy,” Russell said. “I’m Lieutenant Sean Russell, head of station security. We just wanted to say hi, welcome aboard, and we’ll be watching.”
“How reassuring,” Sesil said. “Is there anything else?”
“Uh…no,” Russell said. “Just don’t try any of that kidnapping stuff here.”
“Here? No no no,” Sesil said, his smile growing even broader. “Never here.”
“Good. Now move along.”
“Gladly.” Sesil gracefully exited the room. He almost just seemed to glide along.
“Great. Just what we needed. Another ultra-serene wacko,” Russell said.
“I don’t know. He seems harmless enough,” Porter said. “Well, I’d better get going.”
“Well, there’s um…a…power junction that failed. I came down here to fix it.”
“Where are your tools?” Russell asked.
“Already there waiting,” Porter said as he headed toward the exit. “Gotta go. We’ll talk later.”
“What the hell was that all about?” Russell said.
“Must be one of those engineering emergencies,” one of the security officers replied.
Just a few feet away, Bradley Dillon spotted the reason he was down in the docking module. He opened his arms and walked over to the woman disembarking from the transport.
“Madam Jaraan, what a joy to see you,” he said, taking her hand and kissing it as per the old Earth custom. Jaraan completely ignored him. Her focus was on the figure exiting through the airlock on the far side of the module. She couldn’t see much more than his back as he walked out, but she could still sense something wonderful about his presence. She would have to locate this human again later. Jaraan turned her attention to Bradley.
“Thank you, Mister Dillon. I hope my travel arrangements have not inconvenienced you. My vessel is in the shop, but it will be picking me up.”
“No problem at all. Nothings too much for a future investor in Dillon Enterprises,” Bradley said. “My assistant, Gisele, will show you to your quarters. I must apologize for the accommodations, but space is a bit tight due to the renovations. If you need anything, though, don’t hesitate to ask. Once you’re settled, we’ll transport over to the station, and I’ll show you around.”
“That would be fine,” Jaraan replied.
“If you’ll follow me,” Gisele said to the six-foot tall, lanky Hytellan. Jaraan and Gisele exited, leaving Bradley alone with Russell and his security officers.
“And who was that?” Russell asked, almost visibly drooling over the gorgeous alien who’d just walked out of the room.
“A potential investor,” Bradley replied.
“Investor? Why do you need investors? You’re richer than some planets.”
“True, but I don’t want to take all of the risk involved with my financial ventures. Investors spread the danger around. No need to put all of my money in one place. Now, please try to stay out of her way. I don’t want one of your misguided attempts at seduction to drive her off.”
“All of my seductions are right on target,” Russell replied.
“I’ll give you one hundred credits if you don’t come within fifty feet of her the whole time she’s here,” Bradley said.
“I’m finding that being wealthy makes handling people a hell of a lot easier.”
“And it just made me a bit richer,” Russell said as he headed towards the airlock. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
“Likewise,” Bradley replied.
Lieutenant Porter was a bit surprised by how dim the next module was as he entered, but then again, not many people came down this far. The only ways to get down here were through the docking module or the Vulcan comedy club, and the comedy club was like a morgue even when it was packed. Running into Russell had been unfortunate, but it was certainly better than listening to a bunch of “jokes” about illogical people.
Porter stepped up to the one door in the module and rang the chime.
“Leave it outside,” a distracted male voice called.
“Excuse me?” Porter said, confused.
“Leave it there. I’ll get it later.”
Deciding that the man inside had no clue why he was here, Porter slowly entered the room…
…and almost walked straight into a hologram of a bikini-clad young woman dancing erotically.
“And now the top,” a male voice said softly. Porter squinted through the darkness of the room to locate the speaker. A balding, middled-aged man reclined on a sofa intently watching the hologram’s performance.
“Counselor Miller?” Porter asked. The man bolted straight up and slammed a button deactivating the hologram.
“What? Who’s there?” Counselor Ray Miller said, his eyes darting around the room.
“I’m Lieutenant Craig Porter,” Porter said. “I’ve got an appointment.”
“An appointment?” Miller replied, surprised. “Really?”
“Wow. I haven’t had an appointment in weeks.”
“That’s surprising. I figured that people would be cramming your office since we moved into these modules. Don’t you deal with roommate conflicts?”
“Nah. I’ve got standing orders for roommates to settle their differences in the holomodule,” Miller said.
“That’s sounds therapeutic,” Porter said.
“Nothing like settling your dispute through combat.”
“I see,” Porter said, suddenly wondering if this was a very bad idea.
“Well, take a seat,” Miller said, gesturing to a chair across from his couch.
“Uh, doesn’t the patient usually lay down on the couch?” Porter asked.
“But I’m more comfortable here,” Miller said.
“Gotcha.” Porter sat down in the ornate faux-leather, high backed chair next to the sofa and waited.
“Well?” Miller said finally.
“What? Aren’t you supposed to start asking me questions?”
“No, you’re supposed to tell me what’s wrong,” Miller said, reclining back on his couch and closing his eyes. “Talk to me, my boy.”
“Uh…okay…well, I guess it’s about women,” Porter began. Miller’s eyes shot open.
“Yes?” he said expectantly.
“I just don’t know how to talk to them. I get all nervous and quiet. Usually, I joke around all the time, but I don’t know what to do when I’m talking to someone I want to have a relationship with.”
“Is there anyone in particular?” Miller asked. “If so, tell me ALL about her. Don’t spare the details. Height, weight, hair color, eye color, bust size.”
“Are you even listening to me?”
“Yeah yeah. Can’t talk to women. I’ve heard it before,” Miller said. “Look, the problem is you’re acting like women are somehow different creatures. They aren’t. Talk to them like you’d talk to your friends. You do have female friends, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah. Commander Beck,” Porter replied.
“See. You can talk to her, can’t you?”
“But I’m not trying to date her.”
“So. What’s the difference?”
“Lisa isn’t going to reject me. We’re just friends.”
“You can’t let fear of rejection keep you from talking to women. Somewhere out there, maybe closer than you think, is a woman who can’t wait to meet you. Believe me.”
Jaraan feigned interest as Bradley Dillon walked her around the area that would soon be the new and improved Starfleet Square Mall on the renovated Waystation. Bradley had hijacked Yeoman Tina Jones, Waystation’s liaison officer, to accompany them to provide the Starfleet perspective on things. Mainly, though, Bradley had been doing the talking.
“Now the main Dillon’s Supply Depot will be right here,” Bradley said, pointing to a large empty storefront. “The new store will be three times the size of our previous location.”
“You don’t say,” Jaraan said, forcing a smile.
“Starfleet feels that Mr. Dillon’s establishment adds…something to Waystation,” Jones said. “Even before the fluke that made him rich, the business was doing fairly well.”
Bradley laughed a fake laugh and leaned over to Jones.
“You’re supposed to be helping me! Not making me look bad,” Bradley whispered harshly.
“What’d I do?” Jones said.
“But the reason I need you is one deck above us,” Bradley said, turning his attention back to Jaraan without skipping a beat. “The Starfleet Suites Hotel will be the pinnacle of luxury in this sector, possibly even this quadrant. If you’ll just follow me.”
Bradley led Jaraan and Jones to a service elevator the construction crew had set up for getting around the massive station. On the way, Jaraan’s attention was drawn to a small office where a couple of Starfleet officers were working. One of them was the man she whose presence she had noticed in the docking module.
“That’s going to be my office,” Jones said, noticing Jaraan’s stare. “I’m going to have a complete line of holovids about the Beta Quadrant and Waystation as well as tourist info about the entire Federation. I, Tina Jones, will be your one-stop source for all your information and liaisoning needs.”
“That’s very nice,” Jaraan said. “Who is working in your office?”
“Oh, those are just a couple of our engineers. I think they’re hooking up my database. The construction guys aren’t qualified to handle the computer stuff…or they don’t have clearance…or something like that. Anyway, our people are handling the computer installations. It’s nothing exciting.”
“Who is the bearded one?”
“That’s Lieutenant Porter, our chief of operations and our science officer. Real nice guy.”
“I wish to speak to him.”
“Jaraan,” Bradley interrupted. “These are really just normal Starfleet types. We need to get upstairs to the hotel.”
“Why? Do you expect it to vanish sometime soon?” Jaraan said. “Do remember, Mr. Dillon, that you wish to gain something from me, not vice versa. If I wish to talk to someone, it would be in your best interests to indulge me.”
“Stop dawdling, Jones,” Bradley said, turning on the yeoman. “Get Porter over here.” Jones glared at Bradley, then stormed over to Porter in a huff.
“Woah, what’s wrong with you?” Lieutenant Porter asked upon seeing Jones.
“Him!” Jones said, pointing out of the office at Bradley. Bradley waved back jovially, then turned to engage Jaraan in conversation. “Ooooooh, he makes me so mad some days!”
“What does he want now?”
“You,” Jones said. Porter was taken aback by this.
“Me? What’s he want with me?”
“Not him. Her,” Jones said, pointing at Jaraan. Porter looked past the seething yeoman at the tall vision of loveliness standing next to Bradley. Porter has always thought that the tall, lanky Hytellans were the epitome of beauty and grace, but this one was something special. Soft curves, angular features, and regal bearing.
“Her?” Porter gasped weakly.
“I think she likes you,” Jones said.
“She’s never even met me,” Porter protested.
“I’ve heard Hytellans are really intuitive about these things.”
“Oh boy,” Porter said. “Can you two handle things for a while?” he asked the two other engineers in the room. After giving Porter some ribbing about his “new woman,” the two engineers agreed to cover for him. He followed Jones over to Bradley and the woman, whom Jones had informed him was named Jaraan. Before Porter could say hello, Bradley busted in.
“And this is Lieutenant Craig Porter, Waystation’s miracle worker,” Bradley said, wrapping his arm around Porter’s shoulders. “I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to make you happy.” That last comment seemed directed almost in a threatening way at Porter.
“I wish to dine with you alone this evening,” Jaraan said directly.
“Uh…yeah…sure,” Porter said. This was a bit of a shock.
“Where shall we dine?”
“Uh…there’s a pretty good British Pub in one of the modules.”
“Sounds interesting. You will meet me in my quarters at 1800 hours.”
“Gotcha,” Porter said, feeling like he was following orders more than being asked on a date.
“Good.” She smiled. Porter almost had to look away. She was just too beautiful, and he was worried he was going to start drooling while staring into those deep purple eyes.
Without another word, she walked off towards the construction elevator, followed closely by Jones. Bradley held onto Porter’s arm a second, not allowing the engineer to leave just yet.
“I am on the verge of a very big deal here,” Bradley said with an intensity Porter had never seen from him before. “I need you to show Jaraan a good time. You understand? Money’s no object here…within reason.”
“Wait a second,” Porter said, shaking himself out of the shocked stupor the last couple of minutes had sent him into. “You’re going to pay me to go out with her?”
“You keep her happy while she’s here, and I’ll make your bank account happy when she leaves. I know you Starfleet types claim to not be interested in money, but you still like having a few extra credits when shore leave rolls around, right?”
“Right,” Porter replied.
“Good. We’ve got a deal then. Take her on the date of her life. I’ll pay for dinner, drinks, dancing, a private performance by that Klingon swing band, whatever. Just don’t let me down, Porter.”
“I’ll try not to,” Porter said.
“Fantastic.” Bradley shook Porter’s hand heartily and raced off to catch up with Jones and Jaraan.
Porter could only stand and watch him go. Counselor Miller had said that a woman was out there looking for him. Who knew she’d show up that same afternoon? And that he’d make some credits in the process?
It certainly was a strange universe.
After his shift, Porter returned to his cramped quarters in the cargo module he was sharing with Sean Russell. In a lot of ways, living in the modules was a lot like the Academy dorm, only smaller and louder. Between adding corridors for people to walk through, life support, and power units, there wasn’t a lot of room left for the people.
Porter had just climbed out of the sonic shower and slipped into a robe when Russell walked in carrying what looked like several sets of hanging clothes.
“You could knock,” Porter said, putting the padd he was reading down on his coffee table.
“We live in the same room for three years at the Academy, and now I have to knock,” Russell said. “I don’t think so. These came for you.” He set the clothes down hanging over one of the two chairs at Porter’s tiny eating area.
“What?” Porter said confused as he got off the sofa and checked out the mysterious new arrivals. Well, the package was exactly what it looked like: hanging clothes. Three suits and a tuxedo to be exact.
“One of Bradley’s little Vulcan minions dropped them off,” Russell said. “What’s up?”
“Up? Why should something be up?” Porter said, knowing damn well that Russell probably had the whole story by now. Jones had a knack.
“Scuttlebutt is that you have a date,” Russell said smiling.
“Scuttlebutt? I’ve been reduced to that.”
“Hey, you ain’t talking, buddy.”
“Bradley’s got some Hytellan on board,” Porter said.
“I know. I saw her. Astounding.”
“Well, she’s evidently taken a liking to me. Bradley’s paying me to have dinner with her.”
“Wait a second!” Russell exclaimed. “He bribes me to stay the hell away from her, but you get to date her! Where’s the justice in that?”
“I don’t know. We could ask Ensign Krause, Missy from the soup on a stick stand, the girl from that bar on Bransonis…”
“All right. All right,” Russell said, raising his hands in defeat. “Where are you taking her?”
“Victoria’s,” Porter said. “Not that I have that many options on this dump.”
“I’ve got a couple of holodeck programs I could lend you.”
“Thanks, but no. You’ve told me about your holodeck programs, and while I might enjoy an evening with the all-nude quilting club of Fordar Six, she might think it’s in bad taste.”
“Are you saying I have no taste?”
“No. Just bad taste,” Porter said. “Not get the hell out of here and let me get ready for my date.”
“All right,” Russell said. “But you call me if you run into any problems.”
“I know how to do this, Sean. I have dated before.”
“Yeah, but I’d like to avoid another ‘Gee, Craig, that was nice, but let’s be friends’ story from you.”
“Sorry, bud, but…”
“But it’s the truth. I know,” Porter said.
“You could use a quickie fling,” Russell said. “Have some fun. And relax!” He headed out the door.
“I’d planned on being miserable and tense. Glad you straightened me out there,” Porter replied. Russell laughed and returned to his room next door.
Surveying the outfits Bradley Dillon had provided, Porter decided that the tux, while nice, would probably be a bit much. Instead, he chose a nice navy blue suit. He casually wondered if Bradley would let him keep the outfits when it was over.
Slipping the suit on, Porter was impressed by the fit. It was almost perfect. Either Bradley had a good eye for this sort of thing, or he’d broken in to Porter’s replicator records. Who knew with Bradley? Half the time, he seemed slimier than a Ferengi, and the other he was a perfect gentleman. Definitely a hard guy to get a bead on, but he made things interesting.
The door chime sounded, interrupting Porter’s thoughts. He stopped admiring himself in his mirror and opened the door. A perky, pretty blond was standing there with a small case.
“Hi there,” she said, extending her hand to Porter, which he shook tentatively. “I’m Penny.”
“Uh…nice to meet you,” Porter said, as she pushed past him into his quarters, opened her case, and pulled out a small, pointed device that Porter didn’t recognize.
“Mr. Dillon sent me down. Could you spread your legs please?”
“Now wait a second!” Porter exclaimed.
“I’m here to alter the suit,” she said, looking him up and down. “Pretty nice fit, but then, Mr. Dillon does have an eye for these things.” She squatted down in front of him, and made a few changes to the pants, shortening the legs slightly, then moved up to his suitcoat. “Not bad at all,” she said, giving Porter a wink and a smile.
“Thanks,” Porter said uncomfortably. He knew that Russell would have asked her out by now if he were in this situation. Porter could only stand there stiffly as she busied herself about his clothes.
Of course, why should he ask her out? He already had a date.
“All finished,” Penny said a couple of minutes later. “Just contact me at the store if you need anything.” And then she was gone.
“Wait!” Porter called after her. “What store?” She didn’t look like someone who’d work at the Klingon formal wear shop, but who could tell? He didn’t get an answer. She was already halfway to wherever she was going by then.
Porter glanced at the chronometer in his quarters and realized that he was running out of time. He quickly finished getting ready and started to make his way through the various modules of the residential section towards the guest quarters Jaraan was staying in.
He was so busy trying to decide if he should say “hi” or “hello” that he almost barreled into the two fully-armed Roman gladiators coming in the opposite direction. It took him a second to process what he was seeing. A quick double take later, he jumped back in alarm. A second later, he realized who was in the costumes: Commander Lisa Beck and Dr. Amedon Nelson.
“Where are you two going?” Porter said. “Did someone not invite me to a costume party?”
“Holomodule,” Nelson said flatly.
“We’ve got some business to settle,” Beck added.
“Her Bracktian music finally pushed you over the edge?” Porter said to Beck.
“My music?” Nelson snapped. “What about her and that wailing crap?”
“Those were Andorian show tunes” Beck said. “I just got the Original Cast Recording of Sweet Guts and Gore.’”
“It’s lovely,” Nelson said sarcastically.
“Hey, if you can’t appreciate ‘Painting the Sky With Your Blue, Blue Blood,’ that’s your problem,” Beck said.
“It’s about to be yours. I’m going to kick your red-haired ass!”
“I didn’t know you had red hair on your ass,” Porter said smiling.
“Go to hell, Porter,” Beck said, storming past him. “Oh, nice suit.”
“Have fun on the date,” Nelson said, as she followed Beck down the passageway.
“Could I have just a little privacy?” Porter called after them. Beck just laughed.
“Not on this station, buddy?” Nelson said.
Finally, Porter prepared to enter the module containing Jaraan’s quarters. Before he could even activate the airlock, he was ambushed by three guys in non-descript black suits. One combed his hair again while the second shot some sort of breath freshener down his throat and the third shoved a bouquet of roses into his arms. In another instant, they were rushing away.
“Mr. Dillon sends his best wishes,” one of them shouted back. Great. It was a Mug-O-Gram. On the bright side, though, he had a dozen beautiful roses to give Jaraan, and he didn’t think that his breath had ever been fresher.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of bizarre encounters, Porter arrived at Jaraan’s quarters. Before ringing the door chime, he took a couple of deep breaths and straightened his suit again. He rang the chime, and the door whooshed open immediately, revealing a smiling Jaraan.
“Nice show,” she said. “Do I make you that nervous?”
Porter blushed. She’d seen him readying himself on the other side of her door. Real smooth.
That thought was pushed almost totally out of his head as he looked at Jaraan. She was wearing a body-hugging purple dress made of a shimmering purple fabric that matched her eyes. The skirt of the dress was slit almost all the way up to her waist, and a small swatch of material covered her chest in a way that made Porter wonder how it stayed up.
“Well?” Jaraan said expectantly.
“Sorry,” Porter replied.
“Struck speechless. I like that in a man,” Jaraan said, running her hand playfully along Porter’s cheek then brushing past him into the hall. “Where do we eat?”
“Uh…this way,” Porter stammered, heading off down the corridor. Jaraan wrapped her arm around his, her touch sending a rush of excitement through his body.
“Lead on,” she said.
The walk to Victoria’s was fairly quiet. Porter would occasionally try and start up a conversation about the renovations or something similar, but Jaraan would mainly just smile or nod. At one point, when he started rambling about the new power core they were getting, Jaraan put her finger over his lips and said “Shh. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about more interesting things over dinner.”
Porter saw Jaraan’s eyes light up the moment they stepped into the British-style pub. She was just overwhelmed by the music and sounds of people laughing and talking. Porter wished she could have seen their old location on Waystation with the giant bar and dark wood paneling. As it was, old Sanders had done a pretty nice job with his temporary home. A huge Union Jack still hung over the bar, only now the bar was basically a plain counter. He’d moved over most of the wooden tables and chairs, though.
Porter steered Jaraan through the patrons to a quiet empty table near the corner of the pub. Jaraan looked at him quizzically as he pulled her chair out for her.
“Old Earth custom,” he said with a nervous smile. He quickly took the chair opposite hers and looked around the bar, hoping not to see Bradley Dillon or any of the Waystation crew watching to see how his date was going. None of them were visible, but Porter did spot Sesil, that supposedly criminal Vulcan, sitting at another table sharing a drink with a couple of the construction workers. A gregarious Vulcan. Who knew?
“Thank you for agreeing to this,” Jaraan said. “It’s nice to have someone to spend time with in an unfamiliar place.”
“No problem,” Porter replied, not bothering to mention that it was she who’d practically ordered him out to dinner. Realizing that they were going to have to talk to each other through dinner, Porter searched his brain for something resembling interesting conversational topics.
Then, the oddest thing happened.
She started talking. She spoke about her family and her planet and her hobbies, and Porter found himself laughing and enjoying himself. He told her about his family and growing up with terraformers on a distant colony and his brother and joining Starfleet. He was totally engaged by this woman, and she seemed really interested in him too. Suddenly, it wasn’t a formal date where he’d try to do everything he could to be charming and attractive. Instead, it was two people getting to know each other and genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
Before he knew it, hours had passed. He walked her back to her quarters, the two of them ambling slowly from module to module reliving childhood memories and sharing dreams of the future. At times, Porter felt like he should slap himself out of this dream. Here was this incredible creature with beauty, power, and wealth, and she wanted to spend time with a lowly Starfleet engineer. What a strange, wonderful universe.
Back at her quarters, she invited him in for a drink. He stayed all night.
Porter practically ran into Counselor Miller’s office the next morning. He wasn’t even sure the counselor would be in yet, but there he was, laying on his sofa with a padd in his hand looking very content.
“Good read?” Porter said.
“Absolutely,” Miller said with a smile as he handed the padd to Porter.
“Not a lot of words in this thing,” Porter said.
“The pictures say it all, my boy,” Miller replied. “And what can I do for you this morning.”
“You are not going to believe what happened,” Porter said, taking a seat in the chair next to Miller’s couch. He quickly told Miller about Jaraan asking him out the day prior.
“You’re right. I don’t believe it,” Miller said. “But it sounds wonderful.” He closed his eyes to concentrate. “Describe her for me in detail. Every curve. Does she have a daughter? That sort of thing.”
“You need help,” Porter said.
“Hey. Around here, I am the help,” Miller said. “So what happened on this date?”
Porter gave him a run-down on the evening, stressing how much they talked and what a great feeling it was. He stopped with her asking him into her quarters.
“And what happened after that?” Miller asked interested.
“That’s none of your business,” Porter said.
“Craig, if I’m to help you, we have to have complete trust and openness.”
“The thing I don’t understand,” Porter said, ignoring Miller’s comment, “is why I could suddenly talk to her. I always tense up around women I’m attracted to.”
“But you can talk to Commander Beck. And Dr. Nelson.”
“I didn’t used to to be comfortable around Nelson, but we’re better friends now.”
“She rejected you?”
“I guess that’s one way to put it,” Porter said. “What’s that got to do with Jaraan.”
“You have a block in your brain. You see women as either the Other, meaning foreign beings that you attempt to have a romantic relationship with, or as friends, and in that respect, you can talk to them. You have to realize that there is no such division. People are people!”
“Just what you trying to say, doc?” Porter asked.
“You could talk to Jaraan because were able to relate to her as a person! She ceased to be the Other and entered the realm of friend!” Miller said, practically shouting as he rose up off the couch.
“Woah. You really get worked about this.”
“I just get aggravated with people in their thirties who haven’t figured out the basics of existence yet,” Miller said. “Just leave me alone, and next time, bring a picture of her!”
“Right. Thanks, Counselor.”
“Whatever,” Miller said, picking his padd back up.
Porter next headed to Ops to start his shift. Almost as soon as he entered the module, Commander Beck came walking out of the tiny office she’d been given.
“Morning, Lieutenant,” she said, smiling strangely.
“Uh…hi,” Porter said, moving towards his station. The ensign there looked at him oddly, but didn’t make a move to leave. “What’s going on?” Porter asked.
“You’ve got the day off,” Beck said. “Have fun.”
“What? I didn’t…”
“A benefactor has stepped in on your behalf.”
“Bradley,” Porter said. “How much is he paying you?”
“Enough,” Beck replied smiling. “Go have fun with what’s-her-name.”
“Jaraan,” Porter said, headed towards the exit. “And thank you, Commander.”
“No problem,” she said. She couldn’t help noticing the huge smile on Porter’s face. Whoever this woman was, Porter was obviously enthralled. It was nice to see. He’d been alone for almost all of the years Beck had known him. If anybody deserved something like this to happen to him, it was Craig Porter.
After a short search, Porter found Jaraan at Victoria’s waiting for him. She smiled upon seeing him approach.
“Mr. Dillon was as good as his word,” she said as Porter sat down across from her.
“He’s got his ways of getting things done,” Porter replied. “Not that I mind in this case.”
“Well, he’s gotten what he wants from me,” Jaraan said.
“You’re going to invest in the hotel?”
“Yes. Mr. Dillon occasionally comes off a bit…”
“Slimy,” Porter offered.
“Exactly. But he has excellent taste and truly desires to create something spectacular here. What did he call it? The pinnacle of luxury.”
“Can’t wait to see it. Of course, I won’t be able to afford to stay there.”
Sanders, Victoria’s owner, brought over two stouts and two shepherd’s pies. “Courtesy of the ‘ouse, guv,” he said with a grin. Porter decided Sanders was just way too happy to see Porter with a woman. But that’s what he got for telling all his troubles to his bartender.
“I just love the atmosphere in here,” Jaraan said, digging into her lunch.
“Oh yeah. Just like home,” Porter replied. Over at the bar, Sanders still hadn’t wiped the smirk off of his face. No. This was worse than home. He didn’t usually have his mom and dad watching him on dates.
After lunch, Jaraan asked to see one of the holomodules…well, the one holomodule. Waystation Village only had one set up. Usually, getting time was a problem, but the schedule for that particular afternoon was strangely clear. Porter felt the hand of Bradley at work again.
“What would you like to see?” Porter said, tapping commands into the control panel.
“Your favorite program,” Jaraan replied.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Porter said, finishing the program. Moments later, they stepped into a deep wood with trees that seemed to reach up into infinity towering above their heads.
“Is this Earth?” Jaraan asked.
“Might as well be,” Porter replied. “It’s a colony my parents terraformed. Come on.” He led her out of the wood to the edge of a vast lake. Lush green hills rose up all around the water as the sun shimmered on its surface.
“Some people like mountain views. Some like space. I always liked it here,” Porter said. “The hills surrounding me just made me feel safe and…cozy, I guess.” He pointed at a tiny hut sitting on a wooden deck stretching out over the water a little ways down the shoreline from them. “I built that when I was twelve. Dad offered to help, but I wanted to do it alone.”
“And you did,” Jaraan said. “It’s beautiful…all of it.”
“I’m glad you think so,” Porter replied.
“Very relaxing. But what do you do for fun?”
“On the holodeck. Surely you have fun programs.”
“Well, there’s this one,” Porter said. “Computer, run program Porter 4.”
“Program complete,” the computer replied a couple of seconds later. The outdoor vista was replaced by the cramped interior of some sort of vessel. Men sat tensely at consoles all around the room.
“We’re detecting an enemy boomer on sonar, sir,” one of the men said, turning to face Porter.
“What is this?” Jaraan asked in amazement.
“It’s called a submarine. Years ago, my people used them to travel under the oceans, mostly for military reasons. In a way, it was kind of like space travel. We’re several thousand feet underwater right now. You were pretty much all alone down here, and if something went wrong, you were in big trouble.”
“And this is fun?”
“The battle is the fun part. Two subs, operating on sensors alone, trying to outwit and destroy each other.”
“Sir!” the officer who’d spoken earlier said in alarm. “Should we act?” Porter looked at Jaraan.
“Please,” Jaraan said.
“Bring us about and match their heading,” Porter said, flying into action. “Have we got an ID yet?”
“Yes, sir. It’s the Resinski. October class. 30 tactical nukes.”
“Damn,” Porter said. “Has she spotted us?”
“I don’t think so, sir.”
“Good. Try and keep us in her backwash.” Suddenly, the ship rocked hard. Water began to seep in from the hull plates.
“We’ve been hit, sir! Attack sub snuck in behind us.”
“Damn it!” Porter said. Another blast shook the ship, flooding the compartment with water. “End program!” Porter shouted, just before he, Jaraan, and everybody else went under.
The sub and the water vanished, leaving Porter and Jaraan standing completely dry in the empty holomodule.
“I usually do a little better than that,” Porter said sheepishly.
“I would hope,” Jaraan said smiling. “But I still enjoyed it. We do not use this technology for recreation on Hytella. It presents interesting possibilities.”
“You’re Federation members; you have access.”
“I know, but my people tend to prefer to do things for real. Aren’t there things you wish you could really do?”
“Sure. I’ve been designing a ship for years now,” Porter said. “All of the plans are almost done, but I can’t see programming it into the holodeck. I want to build it myself.”
“Like the cabin.”
“Right. Just like the cabin.”
“Then you must come with me.”
“What?” Porter said.
“I am fascinated by you, Craig Porter. I wish for you to return to Hytella with me and become my drulik.”
“Drulik? Is that like husband?”
“The terms are very similar,” Jaraan said. “I could give you the resources and time to pursue whatever you wanted. You could build your ship and be with me at the same time.”
“Jaraan, this is…”
“Do not answer me now,” she said, placing her finger over his lips again, just as she had the previous evening. She then removed her finger and kissed him deeply. Finally releasing him, she moved gracefully toward the exit. Just before she left, she turned back to him and spoke.
“Think about what you want.”
“So what do you want?” Counselor Miller said.
“I don’t know anymore,” Porter said, pacing the counselor’s office. “This used to be pretty clear cut. I liked science, I liked building things, and I liked space, so I went into Starfleet. I’ve got the best job I could hope for here. I’m on the edge of uncharted territory, and I get to handle both science and engineering. Who gets to do that?”
“Not many people,” Miller said.
“Exactly. But I still have to obey orders, some of which I don’t like. And some days I don’t feel like fixing replicators or replacing power conduits.”
“You want to be your own boss.”
“Exactly. And I could do that with Jaraan. And she’s wonderful.
“What did she look like again?”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“She’s great. I’ve never been with a woman like her. We can talk, and she understands me and…”
“…you’ve only known her for two days.”
“Exactly. Wow, you’re pretty good at this.”
“That’s what the degree claims, anyway,” Miller said. “But seriously, you need to decide if you are really ready to toss away years of hard work to run of with someone you barely know.”
“So you’re saying this is pretty much a no-brainer.”
“Well…how was she in bed?”
“So, how was she in bed?” Russell asked, stuffing a piece of pizza into his mouth.
“Sean!” Porter said angrily.
“You know,” Russell said between chews as he considered his pizza, “they never can get this right on this station.”
“Can we get back to Jaraan?”
“Oh yeah,” Russell said after swallowing. He took another drink of the beer Porter had replicated for them as they sat in Porter’s quarters eating and discussing Porter’s future existence. “I don’t know. I might have to go for it. A life of leisure with that gorgeous thing. It’s mighty tempting.”
“Tell me about it,” Porter said.
“You talked to Beck yet?” Russell asked.
“Lisa? Hell no.”
“You might want to. She’s been through this before.”
“Being offered god-like powers is a bit different,” Porter said.
“Not really. She was thinking about leaving here to go get her perfect life. That’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but what do you think?”
“I think you need to see a bit more of what’s out there before you settle down.”
“You mean who’s out there.”
“So you’re seriously considering this?” Commander Beck asked. Porter had found her in her usual favorite place to eat, the Andorian restaurant. Porter had never had much of a stomach for the stuff, but they made desserts that were absolutely heavenly. He didn’t even want to know what was in the piece of pie he was shoveling down his throat, but it sure tasted good.
“I guess I am,” Porter replied.
“Well, it’s quite an offer, Craig,” Beck said. “I don’t blame you. But is this Jaraan the right woman for you?”
“Like I’ve got so many to choose between.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Beck said. “And don’t just grab for her because she offered.”
“It’s more than that, a lot more,” Porter said. “I’ve never been able to talk to anyone like her.”
“You talk to me,” Beck said playfully.
“Yeah, but we aren’t sleeping together,” Porter replied smiling.
“Point taken. Well, why don’t you go spend the evening with her and see how you feel about her.”
Porter went to Jaraan’s quarters that night.
The next morning he knew exactly how he felt about her.
Bradley Dillon could not believe his good fortune. In a short 48 hours, he’d managed to get Jaraan to invest, and then, with the word that Jaraan was in, several other prospective investors became definite. If you would have told him two days earlier that he’d have a Starfleet officer to thank for all this, he would have said you were crazy, but then again, it was a strange universe.
Bradley was waiting in the docking module with Jaraan. Her ship was docking at the moment. Bradley was busy spending the remaining time he had with her thanking her again for her trust in him and telling her all about the decor he’d picked out. When Porter, carrying a large duffel bag, entered the docking module followed by the rest of the Waystation command staff, Jaraan practically ran to him to get away from Bradley’s incessant blathering.
“Ah, love,” Bradley said obliviously as he watched Jaraan run into Porter’s arms. Porter grabbed onto her hand and turned to face his friends just as the airlock to the ship opened.
“Well, I guess we’ll see you around,” Beck said.
“Yeah, bye,” Russell said. The rest of the group said similar brief goodbyes, then were silent.
“I just want you guys to know that I’m going to miss you,” Porter said. “I’ll visit often.”
“Sure,” Beck said smiling. “Now get going.” Porter waved one last time and followed Jaraan into her ship. He was surprised by the terse goodbyes he’d received. Beck and the others were obviously a bit angrier about his departure than they’d initially let on.
“Let me show you to your quarters,” Jaraan said, giving his hand a loving squeeze. She led him through the narrow corridors of the small ship to a door with a keypad. She typed a code into the pad, causing the door to open. Inside, lounging around on sofas and rugs, were seven other well muscled and oiled Hytellan men wearing loin clothes.
“Woah! Who are these guys?” Porter said, clutching his duffel bag close to his body.
“These are my other druliks.”
“Your OTHER druliks!” Porter exclaimed.
“But Jaraan, I thought…I mean…well…I thought it’d be just us.”
Jaraan laughed and placed her hands on the sides of Porter’s face. “You are so adorable.”
“Look, I’m a monogamous kind of guy.”
“Good. You will be with only me.”
“What about them?!?”
“They’re also only with me.”
“I can’t. I guess I’m old-fashioned or follow backwards Earth customs, but I want a relationship where it’s just me and just you,” Porter said firmly. Jaraan laughed again.
“But, Craig, you’re only one man…and a human one at that.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Porter said, turning to go. “But I can’t be part of a harem.” Jaraan looked at him confused. “Never mind. Have a good trip back to Hytella.”
“You really will not come.”
“Not like this,” Porter said.
“Then I’m sorry, too. I truly enjoyed your company.”
“Me too. You’re very special.”
“I will come see you when I next visit.”
“It’s a date,” Porter said, forcing a smile. “Goodbye, Jaraan.”
Jaraan whirled him around, giving him one last kiss that he’d remember for a long time to come.
“Goodbye, Craig Porter.” And then, without looking back, Porter got the hell off that ship as fast as possible.
When Porter stepped out of the airlock back into the docking module, Beck, Russell and the others were still there waiting for him.
“Two minutes, forty-five seconds,” Yeoman Jones said, checking the chronometer on a padd she had in her hands.
“Ha!” Dr. Nelson exclaimed. “Pay up, losers.”
“You knew!” Porter said in shock.
“Jones did a little checking into Hytellan culture this morning,” Beck explained. “We kind of figured Jaraan would have her entourage with her.”
“You could have warned me.”
“Nah,” Russell said. “This was more fun.”
“Glad to see you still care,” Porter said.
“And so that was the end of it,” Porter said, leaning back in his chair across from Counselor Miller.
“If only it’d been a harem of young, beautiful women,” Miller said wistfully.
“Sorry. I did my best,” Porter replied.
“In any case, this experience was been very good for you. You needed this as a confidence builder.”
“Some confidence builder. She didn’t want me for me; I was just going to be part of her collection.”
“You can’t look at it like that. She still chose you, and you had some wonderful hours together,” Miller said.
“Yes, we did, but it’s over now,” Porter sat silently for a moment, thinking about the last couple of days. “Well, I’d better get going.”
“Of course, don’t let me make you late for your shift.”
“What shift?” Porter said, a broad grin spreading across his face. “I’ve got a date.”
Lieutenant Sean Russell comes face to face with a cosmic force determined to use him for their own dark purposes. Can he escape their control? Will he ever be able to look at a pair of luscious red lips the same way again? Find out in….